Why rush to open schools?


PROCLAMATION by government that schools should prepare for reopening, with parents ordered to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for their children, has unsettled many parents and guardians.

Rightfully so because this comes hard on the heels of scientific research findings that revealed that children were no longer safe from the new variants of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rapid spread of the more virulent strain of COVID-19 has left health experts concerned about the risk that it poses to children, with ample global and local evidence that this group is not safe anymore.

While young people had been spared by previous strains, the Delta variant has shown that it knows no boundary.

What makes it worse is that children cannot be vaccinated yet in Zimbabwe and this makes them more vulnerable.

So, it makes sad reading that the head of the country has ordered schools to prepare for reopening in the midst of a vicious attack by the disease which has decimated families.

This decision was clearly made without due consultation because reports from the Education ministry indicated that most schools were not ready. We implore President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s advisers to provide sound guidance based on facts.

Asking parents to provide PPEs, sanitisers and other essential requirements for learners, flies in the face of pledges that schools would not open until all requirements are in place.

Statistics show that we are in the thick of things and we can only open schools when the grim reaper has taken a rest.

While figures are beginning to drop slightly, let us not celebrate prematurely or else the grim situation will persist.

There is no point in coping what our neighbour, South Africa, has done because circumstances are different. Schools across Limpopo have all the required systems in place to guarantee student safety.

Here, most schools do not have basic running water which is critical for frequent hand washing. Many also do not even have sanitisers and thermometers for temperature checks.

Public and rural classes have a higher number of students and splitting these into two will only strain the teachers who have to shuffle between the classes.

With the salary issue still outstanding, there is no guarantee that teachers will risk their lives for a few dollars.

While private schools are agitating for schools to open, these only serve a small percentage of the country’s students population.

We urge the government to beef up online learning and engage the private sector for assistance.

There is no point in trying to stick to a school calendar which has ceased to be effective given the prevailing circumstances.